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Silicosis Autoimmune Disease

Silica Dust

Silica is a mineral. It is normally found within sand and rock. Silica dust is a common byproduct of construction activity, and may be inhaled. Exposure to silica dust is considered hazardous to human health.

It is estimated that millions workers in the United States have been exposed to silica dust. Silica dust can be created by any activity that breaks rocks, concrete, or any other material that contains silica.

Silicosis is a lung disease caused by exposure to tiny particles of dust which can get into the lungs. This disease often strikes workers exposed to silica. Silicosis is caused by inhaling silica dust.

The lungs are injured by inhaled silica dust resulting in the formation of scar tissue. The lungs will react to long-term exposure to silica by developing scarring. This scarring can lead to a dangerous condition in which is becomes hard to breathe.

People suffering from silicosis are also at increased risk of other diseases, such as bronchitis and lung cancer. Working in a dusty environment where silica is present can increase a person's chances of getting silicosis and cancer.

Silicosis can occur very slowly and may not be detected by a doctor until decades after the worker’s first exposure to the dust. Some of the symptoms of silica exposure can include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, and cough and flu-like symptoms.

A trained physician may be able to detect and diagnose silicosis through performing a chest x-ray.

Workers who engage in the following activities are at risk of developing silicosis:

  • Mining
  • Drilling
  • Sandblasting
  • Foundry work
  • Cement, stone, clay, brick and glass production
  • Welding
  • Grinding
  • Chipping, hammering, crushing, loading and transporting rock
  • Working with a saw, hammer, drill to grind or chip concrete or other rock
  • Construction work
  • Tunneling
  • Stone crushing
  • Rock quarry work
  • Rock drilling
  • Masonry work
  • Cement work
  • Demolition work
  • Cutting or manufacturing heat-resistant bricks
  • Manufacturing of glass products
  • Railroad construction
  • Plumbing
  • Painting


Some manufacturers of paints, plastics, soaps, and detergents also produce silica dust. Silica dust exposure has been reported in workers in the mining, railroad, maritime, shipbuilding, construction, and mining industries.

Many individuals who work in high risk areas for silicosis such as miners and sandblasters can be protected from silicosis by means of respirators, gas masks, and other equipment designed to prevent silica from entering the lungs.

Silica exposure can also lead to autoimmune diseases. These diseases include lupus, scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis. Mona Lisa Wallace tried and won one of the only cases known to have been litigated before the North Carolina Industrial Commission for a silica-related autoimmune disease. Her client was a plastic plant worker who developed both silicosis and rheumatoid arthritis. The case was eventually settled.

If you have worked in the abrasive blasting, stone mason, mining, quarrying, or demolition trades or worked for significant periods in the vicinity of these trades, you may have inhaled silica dust, the cause of silicosis and a cause of lung cancer.

Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring mineral found in sand, quartz, granite, flint, and many other mineral rocks. Cristobalite and tridymite are other types of silica found in mineral rocks which are used to make glass and concrete.

Principal Remedies

There are legal remedies for nearly every person who suffers disease and/or disability as a result of exposure to silica. The principal remedies are:

  • A lawsuit against the manufacturers of the silica-containing products to which you were exposed;
  • Lawsuit against the manufacturers of the respiratory protective devices you used;
  • Lawsuit against the manufacturers of the sandblasting equipment that you used;
  • A workers' compensation claim against the employer that you worked for when you were exposed to silica;
  • A claim for Social Security disability benefits.


Some or all of these remedies may be available to you, but whatever remedy is available is best pursued with the assistance of a seasoned North Carolina worker’s compensation attorney. If you or a loved one has been the victim of silicosis, please contact our firm for an evaluation at 800.849.5291 or email us

In addition to helping North Carolina and Southeastern United States silicosis victims hold those responsible for their suffering financially liable, the lawyers of Wallace & Graham specialize in a variety of other personal injury and wrongful death cases.

If you suspect that you might have developed silicosis due to silica exposure on the job, call us for a free consultation to learn how an experienced work injury attorney may be able to help.